Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of the Department of Defense and expressed his strong objection to the Pentagon’s plans for redeployment of military personnel and their families who are currently stationed in Europe.
According to an article that was published in the Stars and Stripes on May 11, 2005, DOD plans to restation both of the Army’s two Germany-based divisions (the 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division as well as several smaller units) back to the United States as part of a worldwide redistribution of overseas forces. The article further states that there is disagreement between the Pentagon, which wants the families of the service members moved before the service members return from deployment, and General B.B. Bell, the top Army commander in Europe, who has said the only way to protect quality of life is to ensure troops rejoin their families in Europe first before they move to their new duty stations in the United States.
A copy of the Congressman’s letter to Secretary Rumsfeld, dated June 14, 2005, is included below.
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In an article that appeared in the May 11, 2005 edition of Stars and Stripes entitled DOD, Bell clash on post-Iraq redeployment, it is reported that in anticipation of the redistribution of U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, the Pentagon is planning to move the families of service members currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to their new duty stations in the United States while the service members are deployed. In other words, the Department of Defense (DOD) will move the spouses and families of the service members separately and not with the presence and assistance of the service members.
It is my understanding that General B.B. Bell, your top U.S. Army commander in Europe, does not agree with this plan. If it is your intent to move family members before the service members return from deployment, I want you to know that I also strongly object to such a plan.
As a Vietnam veteran who experienced first hand the tremendous difficulty faced by my family when I was deployed, I am very concerned about this plan proposed by the DOD. I can only imagine the hardships and emotional distress that will arise for the spouses and children of the deployed service members as well as the service members themselves.
It is difficult enough for one spouse to be solely responsible for feeding the family, paying the bills, putting children through school and nursing sick children while service members are deployed. But to expect them to pack a whole household, out-process, move the family to another side of the world and then start the whole process all over again in their new duty station is absolutely absurd, in my opinion, and most inconsiderate of the DOD.
A commander, especially when he/she is on the front line fighting a war where lives are at a maximum risk, needs to know that his/her troops are totally focused on their objective or task at hand, and the DOD should do everything it can to make sure that our troops are not distracted from their mission. Without a doubt, the plans you are currently considering will cause a major distraction in service members’ minds. Hence, their lives and the lives of those they are there to protect would be put at risk.
This said, I urge you to consider the advice of your top Army commander in Europe and delay the transfer of the military families to CONUS until the service members have returned from their deployment and rejoined their families in Europe. Like you, I am very grateful for the many selfless sacrifices our service members and their families have made in serving our country and in defending the freedoms we enjoy every day. Members of our Armed Forces have literally put their lives on the line and, for this, we must and should be supportive of their families.
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
Member of Congress
“I am hopeful that Secretary Rumsfeld will seriously reconsider his decision and I will make his response to my letter available to the public once it is received in my office,” the Congressman concluded.